The Democratic Republic of the Congo is a place full of contradictions.
This country holds a treasure chest of natural resources and valuable minerals that are both a blessing and a curse. The country’s vast landscape is not surpassed in beauty anywhere on earth, but neither is the country’s poverty. A series of recent wars has lacerated the Congolese people and decimated their way of life.
Yet few have even heard of these wars, let alone know the massive scale of destruction and death they have caused.
I am realizing more and more just how oblivious most of us Americans are when it comes to anything outside of our neck of the woods. The DRC is a place I talk about everyday, whether in conversation with God, my wife or anyone that will listen. Every time I bring up the subject to people, I ask if they have ever heard of the Congo wars. To my bewilderment, no one ever has. Dozens of people I have talked to are completely clueless of the wars. Now it’s one thing to not know all of the history behind them, who all was involved or how long they lasted, but to have never heard of the deadliest, most violent bloodbath since World War II AT ALL is just plain shocking.
During the span of the Second Congo War from 1998 to 2003, 5.4 million people died as a result of the conflict. That is more individuals than the entire state of Minnesota. There are currently 2 million internally displaced persons, which is 500,000 more people than the city of Philadelphia. There is more sexual violence here than anywhere in the world. Rape is used as a weapon of warfare by the different rebel militias and the government to rob dignity and spread terror.
Thousands of male children are abducted, brainwashed, drugged and forced to murder as they are “enlisted” into armies as soldiers. Nine and ten year-old boys are seasoned death machines in the DRC. Boys not big enough to hold a gun are given merely a whistle and put on the front lines of battle. Their sole responsibility is to make as much noise as possible in order to startle and scare the opposition and then, as a living blockade, get filled with the first round of fire in order to protect the soldiers with guns.
The government soldiers are as actively involved in the lawlessness as the different rebel factions. If the government forces are as bad as the rebels, then where does one run? What safe haven is there? I can’t even imagine the daily tormenting fear and uneasiness of having to have a constant watch over your shoulder like the Congolese do. These are all fearfully and wonderfully made human beings created in the image of God. Fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons. They all have a story and were a dream in the heart of God, but their affliction goes unnoticed.
It is as if the war never even happened. How is this even possible?
I believe there are a few different reasons for this:
1) Due to the immense natural resources in this nation, both internal and foreign powers have sought to gain an advantage. Many of the first world nations are more concerned with securing their own interest in the region than helping to establish a safe and peaceful future for the Congolese. Major human rights groups have charged that some multi-national corporations from rich nations have been profiting from the war and have established exclusive networks of key political, military, and business upper class to steal the Congo’s natural resources. The United Nations have been pressured by governments and major corporations to omit any details or shady business in their released reports.
“In 2002, the panel accused 85 companies of breaching OECD standards through their business activities. Rape, murder, torture and other human rights abuses followed the scramble to exploit Congo’s wealth after war exploded in 1996. For example the trade in coltan, a rare mineral used in computers and mobile phones, had social effects “akin to slavery”, the panel said. But no Western government had investigated the companies alleged to have links with such abuses. Some, including ones from the UK, US, Belgium and Germany, had lobbied to have their companies’ names cleared from the “list of shame.”- The Independent, October 27, 2003
Since the rich and government control the media outlets, they have thus forced a media blackout to silence the atrocities being committed in order to take advantage of the situation. Many of these companies obtain concessions or contracts from the DRC on terms that were more favorable than they might receive in countries where there was peace and stability.
“They are fat, they are sleek,
They also excel in deeds of wickedness;
They do not plead the cause,
The cause of the orphan, that they may prosper;
And they do not defend the rights of the poor.“ –Jeremiah 5:28
2) The combat is in Africa. There is always combat in Africa. Many of us have been dulled to the poverty, corruption and mass scale bestiality on this continent. It has been going on since we have been born, and it will continue to go on until we die. Right? As the people of God, we must resist this dullness in our hearts and feel what He feels. If an atrocity happens once or a million times, the Holy Spirit is grieved each and every time with the same passion and heartache. True intercession is made up of three components: identification, agony and authority. As the church, we must identify and agonize with the people of the DRC before we can gain authority to release the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven”.
3) The silence of this world war is summed up in 2 Proverbs:
“The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor,
But the rich has many friends.”–Proverbs 14:20
“Wealth brings many friends,
but a poor man’s friend deserts him.“-Proverbs 19:4
Most people find the poor as social insects. They are seen as pest and almost inhuman because of their status. I mean, just think about it, how often over the last decade have you heard headline news reports or court cases about a poor person being killed or taken advantage of? Why is it that their story is skipped over with little or no media attention? Most of the headline grabbers involve famous, rich and/or affluent people and families. This partiality is nothing new under the sun. Even the first century church needed a chapter in the Bible written to them to avoid this inclination to favoritism based on economic status (James 2).
Although this is how we (nations, society and often as individuals) see the poor, Jesus is totally and completely other than. This is one of the many reasons why I love Jesus so much. Man looks at the outward appearance, but He looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He seeks and desires relationship and peace with these beautiful people in the DRC. Jesus actually enjoys “raising the poor from the dust and lifting the needy from the ash heap” (Psalm 113:7), for they are precious in His sight:
“And let all kings bow down before him,
All nations serve him.
For he will deliver the needy when he cries for help,
The afflicted also, and him who has no helper.
He will have compassion on the poor and needy,
And the lives of the needy he will save.
He will rescue their life from oppression and violence,
And their blood will be precious in his sight”–Psalm 72
This post is written out of a pain that my wife and I feel. We are in the process of adopting from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and a horrible realization came over us recently. In conversation with each other about the unseen wars in the DR Congo, my wife looked at me and through tears muffled, “Our child’s family is dying in the Congo right now.” This immediately brought tears to my eyes and an ache in my heart. I urge you all to feel the heart of Jesus with this ongoing conflict in the DRC. These are real people with real pain. Do not forget about the Congolese and this invisible war. Beseech the throne for God’s justice, mercy and grace to flood into this country and to turn their mourning into dancing.